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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Whiteford & Stevenson Meet With Sangs Workforce

Monday, 30 January 2012


Local MSP Stewart Stevenson and Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford have met with workers from Sangs in Macduff yesterday (Sunday).

The Parliamentarians were there to hear concerns from the employees and also to update them on efforts being made by the Scottish Government to secure the future of the plant and the jobs in Macduff.

Speaking after the meeting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Having already talked to the administrators and management, I welcomed the opportunity to speak directly with the staff.  Obviously, it's a difficult and uncertain time for everyone.

“I was able to tell the staff that the Scottish Government’s Enterprise Minister, Fergus Ewing, will be meeting with Allied Irish Bank and the administrators in the coming week, and will, as a first priority, be pressing for time for Sangs to continue trading while potential buyers are being identified.

“Having talked with the administrators and the staff, it's clear to me that Sangs is a viable business with a lot of potential.  I am confident that it will be attractive to potential buyers, but we need time in order to secure a deal.

“Sangs has been part of the local community for decades, and has a loyal and motivated workforce. Stewart Stevenson and I will be doing everything we can to protect the jobs based here in Macduff.”

Happier Times
Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“This was a useful meeting with the staff and an opportunity for them to receive an update on the work going on behind the scenes on the part of the Scottish Government.

“There is no doubt that the Scottish Government recognises the huge importance of Sangs to the Macduff and wider Banffshire economy and I hope that the efforts of Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing and his team will help to maintain Sangs in Macduff for years to come.”

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Whiteford Hears Young People's Input On Local Issues

SNP Banff and Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, this week visited Fraserburgh Academy to meet with representatives of the Academy’s pupil council and the Fraserburgh Youth Council to hear their views on a range of issues.

Topics under discussion ranged from of activities for young people in Fraserburgh to the extension of the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in the forthcoming independence referendum and future elections.
Dr Whiteford
Mark Buchan, Chair, Fraserburgh Youth Council

Fraserburgh Academy Pupil Council
Fraserburgh Youth Council

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Whiteford commented:
  
“I was delighted to be able to meet with the Fraserburgh Youth Council and the Fraserburgh Academy Pupil Council and hear their views on a whole range of current issues. It is great to see a large number of young people who have an inspiring sense of civic duty and are willing to act and get involved to make their town a better place.”

“The young folk also displayed a genuine interest in the forthcoming independence referendum. They had their own well-considered opinions and questions on the issue, and it was clear that they were itching to have their say in the debate. For me, this perfectly illustrated the argument for the right to vote in the referendum and all elections to be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. On the basis of my experience with young people of that age, I do not see how anyone could consider denying them that right, and their say.”

Mark Buchan, 16, Chairman of Fraserburgh Youth Council and in his 5th year at Fraserburgh Academy commented:

“This was a really good opportunity for young people to engage with their local MP. I hope it  has given Dr Whiteford an indication of young people’s priorities for the town and sends a positive message about young people in general, that we are enthusiastic and want to be involved and empowered in our communities.”

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Research Reveals Concerns Over Flawed Welfare Assessments

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

MUNDELL UNAWARE HOW MANY AFFECTED BY WELFARE REFORMS IN SCOTLAND

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has seized on a report published today (Tuesday) by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) which warns that the UK Government’s Work Capability Assessment for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is not able to properly assess mental health.

The report comes as Tory Scotland Office Minister David Mundell, speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, was unable to say how many people in Scotland would be affected by UK Government welfare reforms. Mr Mundell was asked repeatedly how many people would be affected by plans for a benefits cap.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The UK Government must respond to the research from the Scottish Association for Mental Health that the assessment for ESA is flawed and failing to properly assess mental health.

“These findings echo the concerns raised in the independent review by Professor Malcolm Harrington which found that the assessment process was impersonal, mechanistic and lacks empathy.

“There are already huge questions over the assessment process with people undergoing chemotherapy, in some cases terminally ill people, being ordered to attend back-to-work interviews.

“As these concerns persist it is frankly shocking that the Scotland Office is apparently unaware how many people in Scotland will be affected by his party’s welfare reforms.

“There is a need to reform the benefit system, but genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Liberal cuts.

“Return-to-work initiatives can benefit both the economy and the individual, but people should only return to the workplace when they are genuinely able and when correct support measures are available.

“Existing safeguards are not working and, with major reforms in the pipeline, we need real guarantees to ensure that that people living with genuine incapacity and ill health are spared added stress and uncertainty.

“This issue shows yet again the different stance Scotland would take if we had the power to legislate on this issue and it is our clear view that it is the Scottish Parliament, not the UK Parliament, that should decide on welfare policy for Scotland – as would be the case if Scotland was independent.”

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SNP Warning On Welfare Reform

Monday, 23 January 2012

INCREASING EVIDENCE FOR WELFARE TO BE DEVOLVED

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP today (Monday) said there was increasing evidence that the welfare system should be devolved as the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty and Rights Advice Scotland warned that UK welfare reforms will remove a safety net for hardworking taxpayers and their families.

The report comes as Peers challenge proposals for a benefits cap, and follows wider criticisms by SCVO that the reforms could leave Scottish local government, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s third sector picking up the pieces.

Dr Whiteford said:

“It is increasingly clear that the only way we will get a welfare policy that suits Scotland’s needs is by having the powers to set that policy in Scotland.

“The Local Government Forum Against Poverty and Rights Advice Scotland report adds substantially to the mounting concerns about the UK Government’s reforms, and shows the wider impact that these reforms will have, not only on individuals, but on the wider economy.

“From time limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance to cuts in the availability and level of crisis loans, it is the most disadvantaged in our communities that are paying the price of the Tories reforms.

“Reform of the benefits system is necessary but the Tory/LibDem Coalition Government’s plan looks increasingly like an assault on the most disadvantaged. We must not have cuts for the sake of cuts. Not only would that risk forcing the most vulnerable in society into a perilous position, it also takes vital capital out of the economy without consideration of the impact.

“While reform is necessary, it must be done carefully and decisions on entitlements based on medical need – not government spin.

“The welfare system should maximise the potential for all people to work and live free from poverty, however, this cannot be achieved through cuts in support for disadvantaged people.

“This issue shows yet again the different stance Scotland would take if we had the power to legislate on this issue and it is our clear view that it is the Scottish Parliament, not the UK Parliament, that should decide on welfare policy for Scotland – as would be the case if Scotland was independent.”

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Time Runs Out For Ill-Considered Clock Change Plans

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Proposals in the Westminster Parliament to change daylight saving time, which would have plunged Scotland into darkness until later in the morning, have failed.

A Private Member’s Bill, promoted by Conservative MPs from the south and south-east of England was defeated in the House of Commons on Friday.  Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford took part in the debate and voted against the Bill.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford said:

“Ultimately, it is a quality of life issue. One thing that struck me after the last debate on the Bill was that a huge number of people from England, mostly older people who remember the last trial, got in touch with me by letter, phone or e-mail. They all said the same thing: “This was a disaster when they did it in the ’70s.” They found it miserable getting up, going to work and delivering things in the dark. People who remember it did not like it.

“That has to be our arbiter: is this going to be helpful for our quality of life? I know that it is going to impact more on my part of the world than some other parts of these islands. For the sake of our health and well-being, we need to think carefully before messing around with something that might not need to be changed.

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“MPs from the south attempted to push through this Bill, and with it the prospect of darker mornings for everyone north of Manchester, with little regard to the impact these changes would have on the quality of life for people in the north.

“I had real concerns that no account was being taken of our climate and the fact that the coldest hours are before dawn. While there’s not much evidence that daylight is a decisive factor in road safety, we know that weather conditions play a very significant role. Minimising the time drivers and pedestrians spend on icy roads and pavements has to be a key consideration.
    
“The evidence put forward supporting this change was entirely untested, and the proponents of this Bill have ignored the sound reasons why this change was abandoned after being trialled in the 1970s, and more recently by other European neighbours who found that the shift had a damaging effect on safety, health, energy consumption and commerce.
  
“This change would be acutely felt in Scotland, raising real safety and quality of life concerns.  I’m therefore pleased that the Bill has fallen and will not be progressing any further.”

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Whiteford Presses UK Government On Funding For Peterhead CCS Project

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Participating in a Westminster Hall debate on carbon capture storage (CCS) projects earlier today (Tuesday) SNP Member of Parliament for Banff & Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford challenged the UK Government to provide clarity on the funding and support available for the proposed  Peterhead project.

An announcement was made in November 2011 of a new joint development agreement between Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Shell UK Ltd for the development of a gas demonstrator CCS project at Peterhead, dependent on support from UK and EU funding streams.

Pressing the UK Government on their promise of access to £1 billion worth of funding for CCS projects, Dr Whiteford commented:

“Carbon capture storage is potentially game-changing technology and Peterhead has been identified as the best site in the UK for a gas demonstrator project.

“Peterhead lost a CCS project once before due to the previous Labour government being slow to act. Support from government and access to finance was not forthcoming, so investors simply upped sticks and took their technology and investment somewhere else.

“It is vital that we avoid a repeat of that situation, and that the UK Government provide access to finance within the timeframe of this parliament, so that the Peterhead scheme can move forward.

"
I welcome the Government's indication that they are committed to bringing forward the new competition for funding next month, but the process needs to move swiftly if we are to avoid more missed opportunities. 

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Local Representatives Comment On Sangs

Monday, 16 January 2012

Commenting on the announcement that soft drinks manufacturer Sangs – producers of the popular MacB brand – have gone into administration, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This is very sad news for Macduff and for Sangs, who are one of the town’s major employers.

“I will be speaking with the administrators, Zolfo Cooper, to ascertain the position and to offer what help and assistance I can in seeking to secure the future of the plant and the workforce.

“Based on what the administrators are saying, it is my view that there is still the potential for a bright future for the plant, but I’m under no illusions that it won’t be easy in the current economic climate.”

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Sangs have a long and proud history in Banff and Macduff so this news is obviously very disappointing indeed.

“The company has made great strides in recent years and its award-winning MacB drinks is a very strong brand indeed which enjoys international recognition.

“We can take encouragement that the administrators will continue to trade the company and will look at all options.  My hope is obviously that it will continue in Macduff and I will be contacting the administrators to offer any assistance they require in my role as local MSP.”

SNP councillor for Macduff Bob Watson said:

“It must be a very worrying time for the staff and the local community but the administrators have said there is a strong underlying core business, which I think is a testament to the staff and management there.  The Sangs and MacB brands are very good ones so I would hope that the company can trade out of its difficulties.  In the meantime, I urge shoppers to ‘buy local’ and support the staff at Sangs at this difficult time.”

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MP Praises Family History Society's Initiative

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has praised the Family History Society of Buchan on their initiative after attending the official opening of their new resource centre overlooking Peterhead Harbour.

The local MP was invited to attend the official opening yesterday (Saturday) which was performed by Peterhead Port Authority Chief Executive John Wallace.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Family history and genealogical research is becoming increasingly popular and is becoming an important part of local tourism.

“This fantastic new facility is a credit to the hard work of the volunteers who have taken the Society forward from its formation just a few short years ago.

“I congratulate the Family History Society of Buchan on their impressive facility and the resources within and I’m sure that it will become an important stopping-off point for visitors to the town.”

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SNP Dismiss Gove's Schoolboy Bullying

Friday, 13 January 2012


PENSIONS & WELFARE MORE AFFORDABLE IN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND


The SNP has dismissed Tory scaremongering after England’s Education Secretary Michael Gove this morning made a series of unsubstantiated claims – including bizarre suggestions that an independent Scotland would no longer have an NHS or maintain welfare payments.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP rubbished Mr Gove’s scaremongering over the NHS and pointed out that an independent Scotland is better placed to fund pensions and welfare compared to the UK.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Michael Gove is behaving like a silly schoolboy – his Tory bullying of Scotland does not stand up to any scrutiny.

“Mr Gove is surely aware that Scotland’s NHS is already independent, which is why the Scottish Government have been able to shield it from the disastrous privatisation plans the Tories are pursuing in England.

“As for welfare, the reality is that Scotland is actually better placed to fund pensions and welfare compared to the UK. On the basis of taxes raised in Scotland, and once our welfare protection expenditure and state pensions are paid, Scotland actually has a relative surplus compared to the UK. In short Scotland is more able to afford our pension and welfare bill than the UK.

“Taking all spending in Scotland into account and all of our revenues, Scotland has run a current budget surplus in four of the five years to 2009/10 – while the UK was in current budget deficit in each of these years, and hasn’t run a current budget surplus since 2001/02.

“When all of Scotland’s resources are included in our nation’s economic output, an independent Scotland would be ranked sixth in the world league table of OECD nations in terms of gross domestic product per head – ten places ahead of the UK at sixteen.”

“Michael Gove’s parroting of Tory arguments to talk Scotland down and scaremonger shows how little confidence they have in their case.”


Note:

Figures from GERS (Government Expenditure & Revenue in Scotland) show how an independent Scotland is better placed to fund pensions and welfare compared to the UK.

The analysis of the figures from GERS show that the size of Scotland’s social/welfare protection expenditure and state pension bill as a share of government revenue (with revenue being the money Scotland raises in tax for the very purpose of paying for public services) shows that in Scotland between 2005 and 2010 Scotland’s pension expenditure was 15.1% of Scottish revenues, less than the 15.7% for the UK.

And in terms of social/welfare protection expenditure it was 41.9% of Scottish revenues, less than the 43.2% for the UK.

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Do More To Tackle Fuel Poverty Treasury Told

Thursday, 5 January 2012

CHANCELLOR POCKETS £1.4BN FROM RISING ENERGY BILLS

The UK Government must do more to tackle fuel poverty the SNP said as it emerged that the Chancellor had pocketed £1.4 billion over the last year in VAT from domestic energy bills.

Sharp increases in energy prices by the big six energy companies over the summer could see that total increase by a further £150 million, prompting SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP to demand the UK Government do more to help vulnerable households.

Dr Whiteford said:

“While vulnerable households in Scotland worry how they are going to afford their winter fuel bills the Chancellor is raking in record amounts of VAT from gas and electricity bills.

“Over the last year the Chancellor has pocketed £1.4 billion in VAT from soaring energy bills, but he has done precious little to help the people who suffer from fuel poverty in Scotland. It is high time that the UK government used some of this windfall to tackle fuel poverty.

“The SNP government is working hard on improving energy efficiency in Scotland’s homes. Our £50million warm homes fund will build on the success of the energy assistance package helping those in communities worst affected by fuel poverty.

“Since April 2009, the existing EAP has helped over 150,000 people on low incomes reduce their energy bills and keep their homes warm, now and for years to come. However in tackling fuel poverty we are in a constant battle with rising prices.

“Fuel poverty is a disgrace in energy-rich Scotland, and if the UK Government does not want to help then they should transfer the energy and economic powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament to allow the Scottish Government to act.”

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UK Government Energy Advice Failing

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Calls by the UK Government for energy customers to switch energy suppliers for better deals are not working an SNP MP warned after a parliamentary question revealed that the number of gas and electricity customers moving suppliers has actually fallen over recent years.

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said that, if the UK government was serious about reducing domestic energy bills they needed to look at how prices rise quickly when the wholesale price goes up, but fall slowly, if at all, when the wholesale price falls.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Encouraging customers to switch between energy suppliers has been the UK Governments answer to tackling the problems of sky high bills, but it is clear from these figures that this strategy is not working.

“The sad fact is that most people who are already on a direct debit payment are unlikely to make a significant saving by switching and, indeed, research has shown that many of those who switch have actually ended up on a worse deal.

“Over the summer we saw the big six energy suppliers go through a follow my lead of rising energy prices. How is the average consumer supposed to know what is a good deal without knowing when the next company is going to hike prices?

“Prices are rising much faster even than the ability to cut costs by reducing consumption.

“If the UK government were serious about the reduction in energy bills they need to look at how prices rise quickly when the wholesale price goes up, but fall slowly, if at all, when the wholesale price falls.”


Dr Whiteford’s parliamentary question is detailed below:

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he has made an estimate of the number of energy customers who switched suppliers (a) once and (b) twice or more in each of the last five years. [82159]

Charles Hendry: The following table shows the number of customers who have switched from one supplier to another during the last five years.

        Electricity     Gas
2006    4.836           3.912
2007    5.157           3.981
2008    5.427           4.158
2009    5.022           3.825
2010    4.746           3.558
                   (millions)

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